The Jury Verdict
When you go to trial in a Federal Criminal Case, you will submit your case to the jury upon the close of the Defense’s case. Rule 31 governs the specifics about a federal jury verdict. Specifically, a federal jury verdict requires:
That the Jury Return a verdict to a judge in open court. The verdict must be unanimous.
What this means is that the jury will actually submit a piece of paper with their verdict to the judge in an open court setting where there is no doubt about the actual verdict coming from the jury itself. Everyone will be present, including the Defendant, both sides, and the judge. This ensures trust in the verdict being the real and correct verdict rendered in the case.
If the Jury cannot agree on a verdict on one or more counts, the court may declare a mistrial on those counts. The government may retry any defendant on any count on which the jury could not agree.
In these scenarios, the jury is split on their verdict. For example one or more of the people on the panel disagrees with the remaining jurors. This disagreement prevents the jury from being unanimous. Without a unanimous verdict the trial is deemed a mistrial.
Lesser Offense or Attempt:
A Defendant may be found guilty of any of the following: (1) an offense necessarily included in the offense charged; (2) an attempt to commit the offense charged; or (3) an attempt to commit an offense necessarily included in the offense charged, if the attempt is an offense in its own right.
Basically what this means is that a jury can find that the offense charged did not occur, yet the jury believes that part of the behavior did occur. For example, in a Theft case alleging a theft over a certain dollar amount, a jury may find that the Government has proven that the theft did in fact occur, but that the dollar amount is significantly less than that alleged. If the lower dollar amount constitutes a lesser criminal offense then the jury can return a verdict of guilty for the theft, but for a lower degree of theft.
After a verdict is returned but before the jury is discharged, the court must on a party’s request, or may on its own, poll the jurors individually. If the poll reveals a lack of unanimity, the court may direct the jury to deliberate further or may declare a mistrial and discharge the jury.
By polling a jury the Court asks each jury member whether that was a true and correct verdict that they entered. In most cases every juror member will state that yes it is. In some rare instances a juror member will feel like the other jury members forced them to enter a certain verdict and disagree with the verdict entered into on their behalf. If this is the case then a mistrial or a request for further deliberations is likely. It is always important to poll the jury just for those rare instances as describes herein.